Hollywood homeowner fights off attackers, police say
By Brian Haas
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted October 8 2006
HOLLYWOOD · A Hollywood man turned the tables on two robbers outside his home early Saturday morning, leaving one attacker dead from his own gun and the other nursing a bullet hole in his leg and a bite on his arm, authorities said.
Police say the two robbers were after new chrome rims on the homeowner's pickup truck.
Police identified the robbery suspects as Jason Robert Melendez, 23, and Ronald Magano, 22, both men with lengthy criminal histories, according to state records.
Magano died in the attack, and Hollywood police picked up a wounded Melendez a short time later. Melendez, who is on probation, will be charged with "a multitude of felonies, including felony murder," said Capt. Tony Rode, spokesman for the department.
The homeowner, Christopher Welker, 26, escaped the attack unharmed and is unlikely to face charges, Rode said. A grand jury will make the final decision.
"He was defending his property and his life," Rode said. "Mr. Welker was certainly justified in his actions."
Including Saturday's shooting, there have been four cases where victims have killed an attacker or intruder this year in Broward County, according to law enforcement records. Three of those cases have resulted in felony murder charges against surviving accomplices, those records show.
Welker and his family declined interviews Saturday afternoon, saying they wanted to keep a low profile after being threatened by possible acquaintances of the suspects.
"He was shaken up a little bit," said family friend Andrea Lora.
Rode summed up the incident, which began about 1:30 a.m., this way: "Homeowner fights back and wins."
According to police, Welker heard a car pull into the driveway of his Hollywood Terrace home, which he purchased in July. It's a quiet, tight-knit neighborhood, so Welker assumed it was a friend or neighbor pulling in, police said. When he went to investigate, authorities said, he saw two men wearing ski masks in a red car.
As Welker's girlfriend and 16-month-old girl slept inside the house, Magano leapt from the car, put a handgun under Welker's chin and demanded the keys to his truck, Rode said. Welker had recently installed expensive chrome rims. Melendez jumped out to join in, Rode said.
Welker fought both men, and the gun fired several times in the struggle, Rode said. One shot struck Magano's head, killing him instantly. Another bullet hit Melendez's leg.
Welker ended the skirmish by biting Melendez's arm.
Melendez limped five blocks away before police tracked him down by following the trail of blood, Rode said. There, the suspect was bitten a few more times by a K-9 dog before being arrested.
Magano had been arrested six times, according to state records. Court records show he was sentenced to about a year in jail and two years probation in 2003 on two counts of burglary and one count of marijuana possession.
State records show Melendez has been arrested seven times. He was released from prison in January after convictions on charges of drug possession, forgery, robbery with a weapon and robbery with a firearm, according to state corrections records.
Both men lived only blocks from Welker.
Welker's neighbors were shocked by the violence. Kathy Soto plans to install a small security system because of Welker's encounter.
"In the 21 years we've lived here, nothing like this has happened," Soto said. "It's scary. We don't plan to stay here tonight."
John Warrick said the only trouble the neighborhood has had is a few barking dogs in recent years. He was relieved the incident ended as it did.
"I'm glad the bad guys got shot and not my neighbor or kids," Warrick said.